Welcome to IdeaJones.com

Articles, radio stories, ads, columns, corporate communications, novels or scripts – we’re never short of ideas. We also have a small shop at Etsy.com.

 

Joey Jones is the published author and editor of many newspaper and magazine articles, radio stories, advertisements and commentaries, and has ghostwritten everything from speeches to love letters. She is a past Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting semifinalist and Fade In: Screenwriting Awards quarterfinalist. She also gathers sound and conducts interviews as a freelance field producer in the Sacramento area, and her on-air performance as “The Dying Fish” can be heard in the Water Education commercial series.

Mark Jones makes a living producing radio shows (check out Connections on Capital Public Radio’s Music Station). As Martin Jenkins, he’s heard weekday evenings on CapRadio’s four news stations, and Sunday mornings on 91.3FM KUOP Stockton/Modesto. Mark has also sung, acted and directed local theater and TV.

 

We’re about the story. Whether it’s the facts and figures of nonfiction, or the deeper truth of fiction, we want to find just the right words, sounds, and/or images to get it across.

We’re also about the process. “Do the work right, and on time.” Life’s too short to make things harder than they have to be.

 

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Arts Life — Dispatches From The Trenches #4

As we gather information from those who know about promoting artists and arts groups, we're sharing them. May your art thrive!

As we gather information from those who know about promoting artists and arts groups, we’re sharing them. May your art thrive!

Here’s the final dispatch in this series (until we learn more)… the last part of Why Should Anyone Give A Rat’s? Advice Gleaned From The Gatekeepers:

3) Know who you’re talking to.

Before you submit a story idea or send a press kit, pay attention to what is on that station. Read that publication at least once and pay attention to what is in it, including the ads. Look at the website. How is it written? What does it talk about? That gives you clues to their target audience. How well does that mesh with the target audience for what you’re promoting?

If it’s not a natural match but there’s something special, that’s your hook. Your ballet recital might not be what your average reader of Biker Bar Monthly is looking for… unless your event is Ballet and Bikes and your dancers will be performing with, or around, motorcycles. Not that there aren’t motorcyclists who like the ballet — but as Mom used to tell me, “You shoot ducks where ducks like to gather.” Your chances are better in a setting that is more in line with the style of the event.

I’m told that if you pitch something that isn’t obviously for that publication, show or website without making the case for why it really is a good fit, that’s a big red flag.

Also, for local stations or publications, pay attention to what your local connection is. If you don’t have any, you don’t, but if the director, or a performer, or the writer, or the artist was born in that area, lived in that area, had parents who lived there, something that connects it to that area, feel free to mention it. Not belabor it, but mention it.

4) Remember what you’re up against.

Don’t let it stop you — just don’t forget it. In any midsized city, there are many, many events happening almost any week in the year. That’s your competition for time/space/attention. So do your homework. Which leads me to the last one for now:

5) Follow the *&#(#! instructions.

Contact whoever the way they want to be contacted. There’s not one magic format. Some like email, some like snail mail. Some have an online form to fill out. Whatever it is, show the basic respect of paying attention and following instructions.

Any show or publication gets many pitches for stories, for calendar items, for PSAs. The instructions aren’t meant to make your life difficult. They’re meant to help smooth the flow of information coming in. That’s how they are set up to handle incoming information. No point railing against it. Show that you value the chance to promote your art, your event, your performance.

Actually, that’s the biggest complaint I’ve heard. The #1 thorn in the side of gatekeepers — people who don’t bother to do the homework or follow the instructions. Do that and you’ve just increased your chances of a favorable reception.

There are no guarantees. You can do everything right and still not get it every time. But you can increase your chances. Good luck!

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Arts Life — Dispatches From The Trenches #3

As we gather information from those who know about promoting artists and arts groups, we're sharing them. May your art thrive!

As we gather information from those who know about promoting artists and arts groups, we’re sharing them. May your art thrive!

Continuing with Lesson #2, Why Should Anyone Give A Rat’s? or What The Gatekeeper Wishes You Knew:

2) Think like your audience.

A producer put it best… “Put yourself in my listener’s shoes. Why should he care?” I’ve been told one of the biggest mistakes made by people looking to get an event, or their work, mentioned (or that golden holy grail, coverage, with an interview and everything) is that they assume everyone will automatically grasp why it’s fascinating.

Uh… no. First off, nothing is universally interesting to everyone. And chances are the person reading your press release or the person listening to that radio station knows less than you do about your event or the topic in general. Maybe nothing at all. She has no idea why she’d like to hear your lecture on 15th century art or listen to Seymour Garbick play French country tunes on his oboe.

If you already like Seymour Garbick, or his music, or French country tunes, then yes, all you need to hear is that there’s an event with that involved, that you can afford, at a date/time/location available to you, and yay, you make plans. But an any artist or arts group survive only on the support of people who already know about it? What about people who don’t know much about it but might be willing to give it a try?

When you’re in your car, what grabs you? What hooks your interest? Don’t assume that the public just needs to hear about your whatever to be fascinated. You should be able to explain in one minute why it’s interesting. You can expand on it, but there has to be a core. Is Seymour playing a song that hasn’t been played in 100 years? A song that’s played a lot, but Seymour happens to be the composer’s great-grandson? Or is Seymour a brilliant musician with a great reputation? Somewhere, there’s something about Seymour, or the music, or the oboe, or something that makes his performance different from the others happening that week.

Remember that unless you’re talking to the people at Seymour Garbick Oboe Performances Monthly, your first hurdle is a Gatekeeper who may not know anything about any of that, who is looking for things of interest to other people who may not. Remember that story about the concert by the elderly guitarist? If you hear that he’s playing a song that is almost never performed, or that he taught someone well-known, or that he’s an expert but there are few chances to hear him play live, you might be more likely to pay attention, and go. Certainly the Gatekeeper is more likely to see why it might merit coverage.

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Arts Life — Dispatch From The Trenches #2

As we gather information from those who know about promoting artists and arts groups, we're sharing them. May your art thrive!

As we gather information from those who know about promoting artists and arts groups, we’re sharing them. May your art thrive!

Let’s call this one Why Should Anyone Give A Rat’s?

A conversation I had with someone at a gallery today brought back conversations I’ve had in the past with “gatekeepers,” the people who decide whether or not to cover something. These are editors, producers, reporters, critics — people who look at your press release, press kit, what-have-you and decide if there’s a story there. If they don’t see what will interest a reader, listener or viewer, your event won’t be mentioned.

I’ve been given some pointers on how to make a project, or event, more appealing to a gatekeeper. I’m sharing what I’ve been told in hopes some of it will prove useful (and so I remember it myself). The idea of this lesson breaks into a few parts, so we’ll start with:

How are you saying it?

An idea can be more or less interesting depending on how you put it. I don’t mean “spin,” that manipulation that seeks to gild cowflops and call them gold nuggets. I mean looking at your event for what is new, unusual, or interesting about it. For example: I recently spoke with a man who organizes concerts and musical performances for a nonprofit. He was frustrated by their low success rate at getting noticed in the larger arts scene in the region.

So we talked about a recent event he’d worked on, a concert by an elderly guitarist. Sounds ripping, right? Well, I asked a few more questions and using the techniques I’d been taught, the concert with the elderly guitarist became a “rare performance by an influential musician, an expert in classical and flamenco guitar…” All of which was true. The man rarely performs any more, and was a teacher who influenced other up-and-coming musicians, including one who opened for him.

Not spin — what you say must be true and defensible. You should be able to make a strong case for what you’re saying if you need to. Look at your subject. What’s unusual about it?

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Arts Life – Dispatch From The Trenches

Mistakes You Could Be Making 1 IdeaJones
Mark and I once attended a panel discussion for writers on gaining attention for projects from the media. Editors, news producers, and people who were good at promoting their projects talked about how to approach the media when you want to get your project in front of the public.

Then I agreed to help a few artists with their online promotion. I knew a bit about it, but sought guidance from people who were professionals on how to go about it.

I’ve been gathering information on promoting yourself, or your arts group, on a limited budget. Today, I was speaking with representatives from a few local arts groups about what I’ve learned. Disclaimer — I’ve been good about doing these things for other people and not as regular about doing them for myself. I’m working on that. It’s a learning process, and I’m always learning. I’ve seen these things work. In this and future posts, I’ll share the lessons my teachers give me. Some of the information may be familiar, but there’s probably at least one tip that will help you better navigate the choppy waters of promotion. To start, a few basics:

1) Take advantage of your opportunities.

As I like to tell performers and artists, “People can’t want something until they know it exists.” They may have a vague idea they want something, but they can’t want to come to, say, your concert if they don’t know you, or the concert, exists.

Increasingly people go online when looking for something to do. There are online events calendars like Eventful, and here in Sacramento, Sacramento365. Many local radio and tv stations, newspapers and magazines have their own online event calendars where their listeners, viewers and readers go to find entertainment choices. These are usually free to use. If you don’t have a budget large enough for advertising, or even if you do, you should take advantage of these services.

Your local television station may have a morning show. Watch the show. See what they include that isn’t news, weather or traffic. Note how long the show is — longer shows often have guests in after the first half hour or hour is done. A two-hour show has time to fill every day, five days a week. More about this in another post.

2) Understand what you want.

For example, at our local public radio station, nonprofit groups can:

1) Apply for PSAs (Public Service Announcements, very short on-air mentions of upcoming events),
2) Post events to the Event Calendar (this one’s also available to for-profit groups/performers),
3) Pitch events to a locally-produced show to be the focus of a segment on the air (more about this in another post).

Applying for each of these is a separate process and submitted individually. If you only want to post to the calendar, you can do just that. If you want to be on the air, either with a PSA or on a show, you submit for each of these separately and it goes to a different person.

“Why can’t they just look at the Event Calendar and give us a PSA or put us on the air?” (Another version: “Why can’t they just read our PSA and put our event on the calendar and…”).

Because they don’t have time. Because it’s not that person’s job (that isn’t the only thing that person does all day — it’s one of many). That station or that paper makes this available to the community as a resource. Taking advantage of it is up to you.

3) Don’t do it at the last minute.

Stations may schedule PSAs a month in advance. Some shows line up guests 4 weeks or more ahead — and if they have a sudden cancellation they need to fill, they look at information about upcoming events they wished they could include but didn’t have time for.

4) Follow the directions.

Each event site has its own format. They don’t have meetings where they all decide one way to do it. Wherever you go, there will be directions. Follow them. To the letter. It shows respect for the opportunity, for one thing.

It really isn’t hard. Have the following information handy before you start:

* Name of the event
* Date/time of the event
* Location
* Ticket price if any
* Where you go to get tickets (website, physical box office, etc.)
* Organization hosting the event
* Name/email/phone of a contact person to call for the public to call for more information (if you just want them to go to a website, fine, what’s the link?).
* Name/email/phone of a contact person for the station, paper, etc. to contact for more info (maybe not the same as for the general public).
* A brief description of the event that tells why it’s interesting (and by brief I mean 2-3 sentences. Some sites have a limit on characters). More on that in an upcoming post.
* Anything people might need to know (is the venue ADA accessible? Is there free parking — and if so, where? ).

Go to the website (for tv and radio stations, you can search “television station” and your city to find some to get you started). Click on “Events” and look for a button for “Submit your event.” Follow directions. You can post your event to several sites in an hour if you have all of that ready to cut n’ paste on your computer, or on a sheet of paper you can look at to type it in.

5) Limit yourself.

Unless you have someone who is organized, enthusiastic, reliable and has buckets of free time, it’s not necessary to blanket the world — in fact, starting out this can be a mistake. You want to find out which online sites produce the best results for you, and this can vary. For example, if you play classical guitar, the local acid rock station might get you a few interested people as many people like more than one type of music, but if you have a public radio station, that’s probably going to be more productive.

The strategy suggested to me is to start out with the basics (here that’s Eventful, Sacramento365, CapRadio.org, and the local papers). Make sure you enter your events on their calendars reliably. See how things look in three months. Add another and see if it makes a difference. If not, you can probably drop that one and try another.

Don’t feel bad about not doing more — pay attention to what you’re doing so you know what’s working for you and what isn’t.

I’ve been given more useful information, and will share it in future posts. But in the meantime, don’t be afraid to get your feet wet. Promotion is your friend. Like any good friend, if you treat it with respect, you’ll reap the benefits.

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A Dream Of Forgiveness

Dream of Forgiveness IdeaJones What is forgiveness? When and how does one forgive? Are there unforgivable actions?

I had a dream, sort of a nightmare but also seductive. Someone who had hurt me, in myriad ways, about as badly as you can hurt someone, and I had him down on the ground and I was beating him.

Horrifying in that I’m not usually an angry or violent person, and I wasn’t just hitting him. I was pounding him, obliterating him. This was all very graphic. In the heightened awareness that belongs to dreams and a few, rare waking moments, I could feel beyond feeling, hear every gasp, grunt, rasp of fabric on concrete, the different sounds my fists made depending on where they landed. I could smell everything (better left not detailed), even taste it.

This person is gone and has been for some time, and I’d gone through a lot of work to forgive him. A recent revelation brought all that old stuff I’d thought not just buried but dealt with, processed and done back to life.

You see, I’d hung my forgiveness on one thought, that as sick and awful as he could be, nothing he’d done to me was conscious. Not deliberate, by choice. He was out of control, I told myself. Sick. He’d hurt me, but he hadn’t meant to hurt me. That would have made it all so much worse, if he’d chosen to instead of just blindly thrashing around. If I’d been a chosen target, not just a victim of a sort of terrible accident.

That one idea was what I hung all the forgiveness on. It made it possible for me to forgive him.

Years pass, he’s gone, and someone asked me a question. I answered it and in that moment all the foundations of that forgiveness crumbled. The answer to that question made it clear, beyond argument or interpretation, that at least some of what he’d done had been done by intent. Victim chosen, actions planned. Target identified, aimed at and hit.

The foundation I’d based forgiveness on had been jackhammered, suddenly removed, sending the forgiveness toppling. Talking to him, were that possible, would have been as fruitless as it always was, after all, while he hadn’t denied what he’d done, he also never expressed any regret or guilt for it. Just anger that I’d finally told anyone. What he’d done wasn’t the problem — my talking about it was, to his mind, the problem. Not what he’d done but that anyone knew.

And talking to him wasn’t an option. He’s gone, after all.

I sat up in bed, shaking, angry, frustrated, frightened of the force of my own reaction. And resentful. I’d been through this before, after all. Faced the demons, forgave him, moved on. And here I was with it all to do again.

A friend asked if it was necessary for me to forgive him again. Couldn’t I just move on? Forgiveness, she rightly pointed out, doesn’t come when you call. It’s a process and can’t be rushed. One can’t magically forgive just for wanting to.

She had a good point. The problem is, my mind tends to circle something like this until I find a way to forgive. Until then, it just won’t let it be. My mother used to say once she got something in mind she was like a dog with a bone, and I’m my mother’s daughter. Until I found some bit of forgiveness for this person, my mind would keep turning it over, rolling it around, looking for an answer.

I did try putting it aside. Over and over. And found myself sleepless and shaking, alarmed at how delicious I’d found pulverizing another human being, even in a dream. How satisfying I had found his screams as they became cries, then whimpers. How much I hated feeling the seductiveness of rage.

He was a tortured, complicated, injured, sick human being. Good at faking it in public, and even in his own mind. He edited life as he lived it. You could go through an experience side by side with him and not recognize it an hour later when listening to him tell someone else about it. He would tell me things weren’t happening as they happened or that something else was happening than what was clearly going on, and believed his own lies. And the events that had been at the back of all this were ones I’d always remembered clearly (not the sort of thing one forgets, after all). It was just that I hadn’t wanted to look at them closely. It was all bad enough on the surface, but taking a closer look, it became clear that those times, and others, had been calculated and planned. I’d just avoided admitting that, because if I admitted that he deliberately hurt me, how could I love him, and I did?

I hung all my forgiveness on believing he never meant to hurt me, he hung his existence on false memories he created for himself about who he was and what had happened.

I got past loving him, for the most part. It wasn’t possible to forgive him at all while I still loved him and hoped that he would realize what he’d done, repent, and love me back. It was so hard to let go of that hope that I hung on to it, and him, for years, loving him and yet never forgiving, holding it for the day all was made right. In time, I realized all would not be made right. Our relationship would never be what it should be because he didn’t have it to give. I walked away, and my only regret was that I didn’t do it sooner.

And here I am, knowing I will have to forgive him. Not because he deserves it. He doesn’t. Not because he asked for it. He never did and now he can’t. So far as I know, he went to his grave whining about how he missed me and unable to understand why I told anyone what happened. Again, for him, the problem was never what he did, it was that I talked about it.

I have to forgive him one last time because I’m tired of carrying around this load he put on me. And maybe that’s my path forward.

Putting it down for no other reason than because I don’t want to carry it any more. I don’t want him to control any part of who I am or how I feel. Perhaps what I’m looking for is not the forgiveness that should follow repentance. Perhaps the flavor of forgiveness I’m seeking is that granted by someone who just isn’t interested in expending energy to maintain anger or resentment.

Forgiveness isn’t forgetness, but it is freedom. He gave me burdens. I’m going to learn to put them down and give myself release.

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